When you’re talking about the Greater Metro Hockey League, the first words that comes out of the mouths of people not involved with it, is that it’s an, ‘outlaw league.’
It’s something people like Brian Fish have embraced.
“What is an outlaw league anyways?” asked Fish, who hopes to bring a junior A team from the 14-team loop to Simcoe. “If you aren’t going along with Hockey Canada’s guidelines, I guess that’s what it means.”
An outlaw league, according to section 6.22 of Hockey Canada’s constitution is, “aimed at those leagues that choose to operate outside the hockey structure established by Hockey Canada, its member Branches and the Canadian Hockey League.
Any individual who participates (knowingly or otherwise) in “outlaw” programs after September 30 of the season in question (“the Cut-Off Date”) will lose all membership privileges with Hockey Canada for the remainder of that season, and may only reapply for membership with Hockey Canada after the end of that season.
“I don’t like comparing leagues,” Fish said. “Our league serves a purpose. Our league is growing because we’re allowing players from overseas and the States to come play with Canadian players. It’s a great mix. While we’re growing, they (Ontario Hockey Association) are trying to subtract teams because it’s so watered down.”
The biggest difference between the GMHL and OHA junior hockey leagues like the Niagara District Junior C Hockey League, or a junior A league like the Ontario Junior Hockey League, is where the players they recruit come from.
While OHA teams are reluctant to bring in European players because they would be taking local spots on teams, as well as the layers of paperwork executives would have to fill out, providing reasons for transferring out of the player’s domestic league, its part of the GMHL mission statement.
“The institutional vision for this new league was to improve the current standard of player development at the Junior ‘A’ level in the world’s greatest junior hockey regions,” the statement reads. “To facilitate the growth of this vision, the league had two clearly articulated goals: to increase the international flavor of junior hockey in central Canada, as well as locate and establish teams in the cities and towns passionate about hosting this new brand of junior hockey.”
Fish, who played in the former Metro Junior A Hockey League before playing collegiately for Wayne State University, said the league serves a purpose and has a strong model.
“I can see if the other leagues have a problem with us if we’re competing directly with them,” Fish said. “But we aren’t. We’re supplementing lineups with local Canadian kids along with European and American players. I think they’re fine with us now because they see what we’re doing. Players now go from one league to the next. They let us do our own thing.”
One player that has gone from the GMHL to OHA is Port Dover Sailors goalie Mike Caluori. He played 20 games with the Halton Ravens last season and posted a .407 goals against average, before switching to the OHA and the Sailors.
Another thing people outside the GMHL say, is that it’s a pay-to-play league. It’s reported that teams charge anywhere between $5,000 to $10,000 per player.
“I don’t want to get into that discussion because Hockey Canada does that too,” Fish said. “You want to say it’s a pay-to-play league, you can go ahead and say it because we aren’t alone. All of the junior leagues in the OHA do it as well. I don’t even like the conversation to be honest.”
In 2014 Ontario’s junior A leagues (OJHL, Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League and the Central Canada Hockey League) announced a pay-to-play model. Teams charge anywhere between $3,000 and $5,000 per player to play.
Players in OHA leagues (junior B and junior C) have a $339 fee.
While Fish and his brother Mike are attempting to bring a team, that may be known as the Norfolk Vikings to Simcoe, he also said the team is looking at London and the Windsor area. Those teams would join the Cambridge Bears and Niagara Whalers in a possible geographical division.
Other teams in the league include the Alliston Coyotes, Bracebridge Blues, Bradford Rattlers, Grey Highlands Bravehearts, Meaford Knights, North York Renegades, Perry Sound Islanders, almaguin Spartans, Bradford Bulls, Halton Ravens, Orangeville Americans and Rama Aces.